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Driver airlifted to hospital after rollover crash in San Carlos

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The driver of a solo vehicle rollover collision in San Carlos on Monday was pinned under the van for over an hour before being extricated and airlifted to a local trauma center, according to fire officials.

First responders were called to the crash just after 2 p.m. on Winding Way near Torino Drive, fire officials said.

Multiple agencies, including the Redwood City, CalFire, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, responded to make the rescue, which involved a “complicated lifting operation on a steep hillside,” according to the Redwood City Fire Department.

The condition of the victim was not immediately known.

Photo credit: Redwood City Fire Department

Motorcyclist killed in collision on Highway 84 identified

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A 27-year-old Santa Clara man has been identified as the motorcyclist who was killed in a collision with a tow truck Friday along Highway 84 in Woodside, according to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.

The victim, identified by the county coroner’s office as Tyler Ross Carlberg, was riding a motorcycle on the highway (La Honda Road), about a half-mile west of Portola Road, about 4:50 p.m., the sheriff’s office said.

The cause of the collision remains under investigation and the sheriff’s office is requesting anyone with information to contact the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Anonymous tip line at 1-800-547-2700.

CHP to conduct enforcement operation on State Route 1

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Additional California Highway Patrol officers will be deployed on State Route 1 in San Mateo County this weekend as part of an effort to crack down on speeding and aggressive driving.

The enforcement operation is set to occur Saturday, July 27, and Sunday, July 28, along the coastal highway, citing a need to reduce collisions resulting from “unsafe speed, following too closely, unsafe lane changes, improper turning and other primary collision factor violations,” CHP Officer Art Montiel said.

A California Office of Traffic Safety grant, through the National Highway Traffic Administration, funded this weekend’s enforcement, Montiel said.

Photo credit: CHP

Redwood City to recruit homeless for downtown beautification

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Redwood City is set to implement a program that recruits homeless people to help clean up and beautify downtown on a volunteer basis while receiving a non-cash stipend for basic needs and developing job skills.

The proposal to fund a two-year Downtown Streets Team pilot program at a cost of $378,664 per year appears on the City Council’s agenda at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Downtown Streets Team, Inc. model (website here) invites members of the Redwood City’s homeless population to work collaboratively on beautification projects. Those who show dedication and leadership skills can move up the ranks to become team leaders and supervisors.

In return, “Team Members receive a non-cash stipend to help cover their basic needs, while taking advantage of our case management and employment services to find housing and a job,” according to The Downtown Streets Team. “Our ultimate goal is to transition Team Members into employment because having a job restores hope and opens the door to other opportunities. Our model is structured to be a one-year transitional program into permanent housing and employment.”

In March, Redwood City council directed staff to develop pilot programs in response to results from the One Day Homeless Count and Survey in January that counted 221 unsheltered individuals in Redwood City, the highest number in the county. Existing resources are inadequate in assisting chronically homeless individuals, city staff said. Along with the Downtown Streets Team program, city staff is also proposing to implement a Housing Locator Assister Pilot program.

City staff called the Downtown Streets Team model “promising.”

“The Downtown Streets Team model has successfully assisted chronically homeless individuals to transition into long-term employment and housing in other communities,” city staff states in the agenda report.

Last month, council approved a Letter of Intent to launch the two-year pilot program starting in September. Since then, Downtown Streets Team, Inc. has already begun the preliminary planning and recruiting of homeless individuals.

“It is expected that Downtown Streets Volunteer Team Members will be in the community providing clean up services in October 2019,” staff said.

Staff is recommending a two-year pilot so there’s enough time to evaluate its effectiveness.

San Mateo County correctional officer drowns in Lake Tahoe

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The community is mourning the death of a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office correctional officer who drowned in Lake Tahoe Tuesday afternoon.

Andreiam Jeffrey “AJ” Arqueza, 34, was enjoying days off with friends when he drowned at Zephyr Cove, according to San Mateo County Code 30 Foundation, which raises funds to support families of fallen officers.

According to South Tahoe Now, authorities responded to a rescue call at 4:03 p.m. and pulled Arqueza from the water. Despite efforts to revive him, he died after being transported to a local hospital, the news publication said.

Arqueza was described by the Code 30 Foundation as an Iraq war veteran who worked at the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office prior to joining the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office in 2017. He leaves behind his wife of seven years, Terry, and their young children ages 3 and 5.

The Code 30 Foundation is accepting tax exempt charitable donations to assist the family at this difficult time. Donations can be made online here or mailed to San Mateo County Code 30 Foundation, 2421 Broadway Street, Redwood City CA.

Photo courtesy of the Code 30 Foundation

San Mateo police Chief Susan Manheimer to retire in December

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After 35 years in law enforcement, including 19 years as San Mateo’s police chief, Susan Manheimer has announced she will retire at the end of this year.

Described by community members and colleagues as a “super chief,” “woman of steel” and “legend,” Chief Manheimer, a San Mateo resident with two children (one a local attorney and the other a U.S. Marine) and three grandchildren, plans to remain fully active in the community in retirement.

The city is about to launch a nationwide search for her replacement, which “will be no small challenge,” City Manager Drew Corbett said.

The highly active and regarded Manheimer is credited by city officials for leading “an era of modernization” at the San Mateo Police Department that created an enduring community policing model and innovations in crime prevention, juvenile and homeless outreach programs, some of which have been replicated in the county and nation.

“Susan not only represented San Mateo, but was a sought after and recognized voice for policing throughout the state and country,” said San Mateo County Manager Mike Callagy, who was formerly San Mateo’s deputy police chief.

San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said the police department under Manheimer “has grown to one of the most innovative and community-oriented agencies in California…the very low crime rate in San Mateo is due in substantial part to her work as police chief.”

Manheimer was “known to many as a Woman of Steel with a Heart of Gold,” said Anna Kuhr, president emeritus at the San Mateo United Homeowners Association, adding that the chief “seemed to know all, see all, and be in all places at one time….Is there anyone out there who hasn’t received an email from her time stamped between midnight and 3am?”

The chief was credited in particular for her focus on the city’s youth. Under her leadership, the Youth Services Bureau was established to support vschool resource officers, Police Cadet, the San Mateo Police Activities League (PAL) and other crime prevention and gang suppression programs.

PAL, which builds bonds between cops and kids, has evolved into a broad-based service agency because of Manheimer, the city said.

“Few people realize how many young lives at risk have been redirected onto a positive track during her tenure,” said Deputy Mayor Maureen Freschet, a PAL board member. “She has galvanized the community around PAL, and has been instrumental in rallying local support and major funding to expand our reach and invest in the future of our kids.”

Manheimer is an active Rotarian, a founding member of the Tongan Interfaith Council, she served on the NAACP Board of Directors and the County’s Juvenile Justice Commission, and she initiated the nationally recognized and replicated San Mateo County Gang Task Force and the San Mateo Homeless Outreach Team.

The chief was born in the Bronx. Her father was a city councilman. Prior to her service in San Mateo, she rose in the ranks during a 16-year tenure at the San Francisco Police Department, serving both as a lieutenant and captain in the Tenderloin. She was appointed as San Mateo’s police chief in May 2000. During her tenure as chief, she became the first woman to serve as President of the California Police Chiefs Association as well as the San Mateo County Chiefs and Sheriffs Association. She also serves on numerous state, national and international boards focused on modern best practices in law enforcement.

“I’m thankful for the chance to fulfill my dream in this great City,” Manheimer said in a city statement. “I will always be profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have served with the extraordinary men and women of the San Mateo Police Department who give their all to keep this community safe and promote the quality of life for all its residents.”

Statements in response to Chief Manheimer’s retirement announcement:

Diane Papan, San Mateo Mayor: “Chief Manheimer served the City of San Mateo with distinction and then some. She is the consummate law enforcement professional, whose effectiveness is anchored by a boundless humanity she generously shared with every single person she encountered. She has left an indelible imprint on the safety of our city with her innovative ways of promoting a strong connection between the public and our police department. We are profoundly grateful for her years of dedication to our community’s well-being.”

Drew Corbett, San Mateo City Manager: “Replacing Chief Manheimer will be no small challenge. She has been a pillar in her field and vital member of the community. Through her leadership she’s fostered a top-notch and highly-trained organization that will continue to serve our community well.”

Mike Callagy, San Mateo County Manager and former San Mateo Deputy Police Chief: “Chief Manheimer’s leadership has been transformational, not only for the San Mateo Police Department, but for the County as a whole. She set the highest standards in policing, and in her role as Chief, was an incredible innovator in juvenile justice, community policing and domestic violence to name a few. Susan not only represented San Mateo, but was a sought after and recognized voice for policing throughout the state and country. Chief Manheimer always set the highest standards for others to emulate. As the Chief retires, her leadership throughout San Mateo County will be greatly missed, but her legacy will live on through those who served under her as well as those in the numerous organizations that she lent her time, talent and expertise to.”

Frank Jordan, former San Francisco Mayor and Police Chief: “The residents of San Francisco and San Mateo were very fortunate to have a quality person of integrity, sensitivity, communication skills and compassionate toughness to serve the public in such a meaningful way.”

Maureen Freschet, Deputy Mayor of San Mateo and San Mateo PAL board member: “The Chief leaves a remarkable and enduring legacy in this City, and few people realize how many young lives at risk have been redirected onto a positive track during her tenure. She has galvanized the community around PAL, and has been instrumental in rallying local support and major funding to expand our reach and invest in the future of our kids.”

Steve Wagstaffe, San Mateo County District Attorney: “Chief Susan Manheimer has served both her community and county law enforcement with unmatched leadership and service. The police department has grown to one of the most innovative and community-oriented agencies in California under Susan’s guidance. The very low crime rate in San Mateo is due in substantial part to her work as police chief. The District Attorney’s Office will greatly miss our collaboration and friendship with Chief Susan Manheimer.”

Anna Kuhre, President Emeritus, San Mateo United Homeowners Association: “Chief Susan Manheimer, known to many as a Woman of Steel with a Heart of Gold, seemed to know all, see all, and be in all places at one time. We all believed she possessed super-human skills, and required no sleep. Is there anyone out there who hasn’t received an email from her time stamped between midnight and 3am? Recognizing her unique abilities, SMUHA honored our Chief in 2012, bestowing her with the title of Super Chief Manheimer, and a special red silk cape for her evening flyovers. San Mateans always slept well, knowing that our Chief, watched over us 24 hours a day. It was her vigilance and concern that helped to build strong bonds and relationships between our neighborhoods and our Police Department. Her exuberance and dedication made San Mateo the safest city on the Peninsula. As she retires, she carries our admiration and deep affection. Even super heroes need a rest!”

Ron Lawrence, California Police Chief Association President: “California is losing a legend with the retirement of Chief Susan Manheimer who is the senior female police chief in our state. Chief Manheimer has a reputation as a strong leader and an outspoken supporter of our organization. She was awarded our top honor in recognition of her many contributions to our profession.”

Photo courtesy of the city of San Mateo

CORRECTION: The original article stated Manheimer was appointed as chief of the San Mateo Police Department in 2010, when it fact it was 2000. The article has been corrected.

Adman without the attitude revisits storied Redwood City billboard

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Once upon a time there lived an ugly duckling, a poor little fellow who was pecked and pushed about and made fun of because of his unattractiveness. His siblings were spiteful to him. Even his mother, who first thought he might be a turkey, had to admit he hadn’t turned out very well.

But then one day the duckling heard that a magician from Palo Alto had come to town, an advertising man adept in the art of transformation. The ugly duckling – written off by many, in fact, as a “dead” duck – pleaded for an intervention. The result was a shoestring advertising campaign with twists and surprises right out of a storybook, including a court fight that made the front pages, newspaper contests, and, eventually a happy ending and acclaim for the duckling with an inner swan.

It was Addison “Buz” Olian who planted the controversial billboard on U.S. 101 in 1993 that helped the downtrodden downtown Redwood City begin to emerge — and gave the naysayers an attitude adjustment.

“I think it’s every ad man’s dream to have the advertising for his or her client become noteworthy,” Olian recalled, about that promotional shot heard round the world. “And when we found out that people thought the board was either, a.) creative and fun, or b.) controversial, we knew that we’d achieved our objective, which was to create awareness for downtown Redwood City. So I was happy.”

Relative newcomers to Redwood City may find it hard to imagine a time when downtown was pretty much the opposite of what it is today: a hub on the Peninsula for entertainment, packed wall-to-wall on weekends with theater — and concert-goers who have their pick of trendy restaurants and pubs. Yet in 1989, when Olian moved his growing advertising agency from Palo Alto to an office above today’s Vesta restaurant on Broadway, his staff marveled at the $2 sandwiches (versus $5). The J.C. Penney had left. A See’s Candy and a curio shop with no name on it were among the few stores.

Like the truth, the sobriquet “Deadwood City” hurt.

“Walking into our agency one day,” said Olian, who was its president and creative director, “I get a message that there are six people in the lobby that want to meet with me. They represented the Downtown Merchants Association and asked if he could help them.

“And I said, ‘Help you do what?’ And they said, ‘Help us with anything. We want some business here.’

“And so I said, ‘From my experience, there’s not a lot of business happening here,’” Olian responded.

“And they said, ‘Precisely. We want you to attract business.’”

The group didn’t have much money but Olian, who has always believed in giving back to his community, agreed to create a campaign — for free — with the proviso that, once the merchants had made their choice, they couldn’t make major changes to it.

His staff went to work. “The ideas came forward and each one was better than the next one because the people in my firm had a lot of pleasure in doing this,” Olian said.

Meanwhile, he was looking for billboard space, also known as “outdoor advertising.” Renting one, which could reach 50,000 to 100,000 people per day, could cost around $20,000. In the first of many surprises, some short-term billboard space came up before one came down and the next went up.  All it cost the merchants was $1,500 to paint the board, plus about $6,500 to rent the space, in a prime location on northbound U.S. 101, near Whipple Avenue.

But what to say on it? When Olian presented the various ideas his staff had developed, the downtown association group had “an emotional reaction” to the one they chose: “Palo Alto without the attitude. Beautiful Downtown Redwood City.” It was intended to begin to position the downtown area and generate awareness through tongue-in-cheek humor. (Olian relented and let them add a tagline: “Once Again, Thursday Nights Are Something Special!”)

“A date was set for the outdoor to go up,” Olian recalled, “and I’ll never forget what happened next.”

Some of the merchants started to get cold feet. “What happens when this goes up and Palo Alto won’t come shopping?” he was asked.

“I said, ‘Are you sure they won’t?’

“And they said, ‘Not really because they don’t come here now.’”

Nonetheless, concern about possibly alienating “Palo Alto” was building – not in Palo Alto, but among a   faction in Redwood City. They also contended that they hadn’t been consulted. “It’s a public embarrassment to Redwood City merchants,” said Don Saye, chairman of the other downtown group. The billboard was being painted and, in a last-ditch effort to stop it from going up, they went to San Mateo County Superior Court to get a temporary restraining order.

That, OIian said, “is when everything hit the fan. … It became so amazingly explosive because it was a free speech issue.”  The billboard feud among rival merchant groups became a big news story.

The suit went nowhere, but the upset merchants made up flyers to hand out to customers with a photo of the billboard and “No” across it.  As a result of the complaints, the Downtown Association decided not to do the full three-month run and to ask the public to submit their own replacement slogan. “Everybody wants to be an ad man,” antiques dealer Joe Steinfeld observed, as the contest entries poured in.

The Peninsula Times Tribune, meanwhile, got into the act too, and launched a “Give Us Your Attitude” contest, which opened the floodgates – with some hilarious results. Readers could submit slogans for both “Beautiful Downtown Redwood City” and “Beautiful Downtown Palo Alto,” with $100 prizes to spend in the two downtowns as prizes.

Columnist Mark Simon kept the pot stirring, and the newspaper received more than 200 entries. Forty-eight of them were sent in by the winner of the Redwood City contest, Lori Rogers of Palo Alto (“Now that we have your attention.”) For the Palo Alto billboard, winner Heather White submitted “This billboard must be removed (Municipal Zoning Ordinance 1,732,664).”

In the end, as the trade publication “California Ad News” noted, the billboard controversy garnered nearly $300,000 in free media attention for the $8,000 campaign, received 13 front-page stories in local newspapers and 38 features, extensive radio and TV coverage and three local newspaper naming contests.  Olian’s agency received local and national awards.

“You know what happened?” Olian continued. “Palo Alto came to us and said, ‘If you can do this for Redwood City, can you do it for us?’” Addison Olian subsequently created several marketing campaigns for Palo Alto, among them the launch of the sustainable energy program and an art center membership and awareness promotion.

Without the lawsuit, “I think it would have just been an interesting advertising message that was controversial for about a minute and would have gone away,” Olian said.

But the ugly duckling had the last quack.

About a decade later, redevelopment was starting to bubble in downtown Redwood City — with new “attitudes” and serious money for comprehensive marketing — and Addison Olian was brought in to create awareness. The Downtown Precise Plan established the framework. Olian credits city leadership and Redevelopment Agency Manager Susan Moeller for the turnaround, as well as “visionary” developer John Anagnostou. He had purchased the Fox Theatre and other downtown buildings and thought, by removing a 1939 addition to the old San Mateo County Courthouse, the entire area could be opened up to create a public space, like a piazza.

Through several years of planning and construction, Addison Olian worked to communicate to the public what was happening, to attract developers to invest in Redwood City, and, when Courthouse Square emerged as the heart of the city, “to invite people in.”

One of the agency’s campaign, which was directed at developers, portrayed sparks flying and encouraged them to get in on a hot opportunity. As the new Century 20 Theatre and surrounding space were being built, posters announced that “You’ll Really Dig What’s Happening Here. Movies, cafes, nightlife and much more, coming here soon.” Theatre Way got its name. Other signs touted the movies and concerts that would be part of the new downtown. Addison Olian created a pocket map showing every store and place where people could spend their time and money, a pre-digital map in paper form. Olian’s agency spearheaded the creative efforts and also brought in outside talent including Green Tea and copywriter Mike Fusello to work on the campaigns. The overall promise in one simple message: “It’s gonna be big.”

And when Courthouse Square debuted in 2006, when people started to show up downtown, the transformation of the derided duckling into a bona fide swan was complete.

“It was astounding,” Olian said. “It’s as if a light switch was turned on and that light was shining on this little town that had been so sleepy for so long. And people finally started to become aware of it. And it was very gratifying.”

He sold his agency in 2010 and is now living in Sausalito. In hindsight, there was an inevitability about the new downtown because of the convergence of many factors, including land prices, timing, vision, investment and the Precise Plan, he said. That first billboard might have been “a preamble to what was going to eventually occur,” but when the time was ripe for redevelopment, attitudes about the future of downtown had shifted. “The easy job,” Olian said, “was to figure out how to make it interesting.”

This story was originally published in the July print edition of Climate Magazine. 

34 cited during pedestrian safety operation on Middlefield Road

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Motorcyclist killed in solo crash on La Honda Road near Skyline Blvd.

Thirty four citations and three warnings were issued to drivers Monday during a pedestrian safety operation conducted by the California Highway Patrol on Middlefield Road in North Fair Oaks.

The CHP-Redwood City conducted the enforcement operation, which in part looked to cite drivers not yielding to pedestrians, as part of a broader focus on areas within its jurisdiction that experience high numbers of collisions resulting in injuries and death, according to CHP Officer Art Montiel.   Among those areas is Middlefield Road, where for years residents have called for safer conditions. Those calls led to the $12.5 million Middlefield Road Improvement Project, a streetscape redesign that will reduce vehicular lanes along Middlefield from Pacific to Fifth avenues from the current four to three, add bike lanes and widen sidewalks to make room for benches, landscaping, street art and public spaces.

“Pedestrian safety is a key issue in our community, and the CHP is committed to upholding pedestrian safety laws to protect our citizens,” the CHP-Redwood City said in a statement Tuesday.

The program as funded by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Redwood City’s custom-car enthusiasts revere the culture and traditions of low-riding

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The 1982 Cadillac Coupe de Ville almost seems to savor the late-morning sun.  Its shimmering, deep-metallic-blue roof graduates to a dark green around the top edges of the doors.  On the lid of the wide trunk is a portrait of a topless Latina beauty.  The upholstery is crushed velvet, somewhere between Kelly and forest green, and covers not just the seats but also the dashboard and the floor.

Eddy Tapia, who lives in Redwood City and co-owns a body shop in Newark with his brother-in-law, Miguel Maldonado, demonstrates the hydraulic system that makes the car a true low-rider machine.  A small console next to the dashboard contains eight stainless-steel switches, four to a row.  Tapia pushes one, the hydraulics whine, and suddenly the car lurches downward with a surprising thump.  He pushes another, and the Caddy careens to the right.  Another jolt, and the car jerks up to its original position.  It’s like a carnival ride, only more extreme because, to a first-timer, the shudders and bumps are so unexpected.

The car, which Tapia has named, “Sweet Candy,” is pretty much the mascot of the shop, Newark Collision Center, just across the Dumbarton Bridge from the Peninsula.  It’s typically parked out in front, on Thornton Avenue, where it has attracted many offers from low-riding enthusiasts.  For now, at least, Tapia has turned them down.  Sweet Candy is generally his car of choice for cruising Broadway in Redwood City, the town where he first started low-riding as a teenager.

For Tapia and Maldonado, as well as many other low-riders in the Bay Area, the 1970s represented the zenith of the cruising culture.  The epicenter was — as it still occasionally is — the intersection of Story and King roads on the east side of San Jose.  Traffic was so heavy and the parade was so slow that it could take an hour-and-a-half to drive one block.  Owners of the low-riding cars — 1963 and 1964 Chevrolet Impalas were the favorites – brought extra batteries so their hydraulics wouldn’t die mid-show.

And, says Tapia, that’s basically what the cruising scene was and still is today – a very slow-moving automotive exhibition.

“Cruising, for me, was to have a good time and to see other cars,” Maldonado says.  “And to meet other people.  To this day, it’s still the same thing.”

“You meet different people out there, and you become friends,” adds Tapia.  “From San Jose, Salinas, Oakland, wherever.  And now they invite you to their town, and you meet more people.  It was like, basically, networking.  ‘Hey, where’d you get your paint job?’  ‘Raul did it.’  ‘Where’d you get your upholstery?’  ‘Morales did it.’  And not only that, but just relaxing and enjoying the good times.”

Entertaining onlookers, whether in other cars or lined along the street, is another big part of the story.

“It’s fun to go up and down Broadway,” Maldonado says.  “People like to see the car dance.”

At the height of his car collecting, Maldonado says, he owned 10 cars.  Today, it’s down to three.  Tapia estimates he still has around 15.  Another devotee, Redwood City resident Andrés Curincita, owns 10 low-rider cars, including a restored silver-and-black 1966 Ford pickup, patterned after the colors of his beloved Oakland Raiders.  Then there’s his everyday car, a silver Mercedes, his wife’s Jaguar and a 31-foot motor home.

“We were just kids,” recalls Curincita, owner of Andy’s Gardening and Landscaping in Redwood City.  “We tried to have nice cars.  We couldn’t afford to customize them.  We put blocks of cement in the trunk to make them lower.  We couldn’t afford air shocks and hydraulics.

“I was always into cars,” Curincita continues.  “I was driving my dad’s car to school when I was only in ninth grade.  There’s a satisfaction in fixing up cars.  We were putting small wheels on giant cars, and everywhere we went, people loved it.”

In the 1970s, Curincita was a founding member of Brown Edition, which he believes was Redwood City’s first low-rider club.  The club evolved into another called Estilo (Spanish for “style”), and then another club, Puro Estilo (“Pure Style”) came along.  A few years ago, Curincita says, a group of younger low-riders approached him and asked to revive the Brown Edition name for their own club.

“I told them, ‘It’s okay as long as you do it right – no fighting, no gangsters,’” Curincita says.

And that brings up an issue.  Outside the Latino community, low-riders are often considered gang members.  As Curincita says, “People see us all wearing the same jackets, and they assume it’s a gang.” Adds Larry Knight, who produces the car show at Redwood City’s annual Fourth of July celebration, “People are usually scared of low-riders.”

In his experience, Knight says, the low-riding culture is highly family-oriented.  Tapia and Maldonado agree, saying that low-riding weaves across families, and an interest in customized cars is typically passed from generation to generation.  Not only are Tapia and Maldonado brothers-in-law, but Maldonado’s brother, Raul — who taught Miguel the craft — is another longtime low-rider who also owns a car shop, Maldonado’s Auto Body and Paint, on Middlefield Road in Redwood City.

And the interest in cars isn’t transmitted just among fathers, sons and brothers.  Tapia says his daughter recently celebrated her quinceañera — a 15-year-old Latina’s coming-out party — and spent most of the evening posing for photos with Sweet Candy and learning to operate the car’s hydraulics.  As for gang affiliations, the organization Tapia hangs out with most is the Woodside Soccer Club, whose teenaged girls he has coached since they were six-year-olds.

Nor is low-riding confined to Latinos.  Tapia, a low-riding history buff, credits an Anglo teenager in Los Angeles with installing the first hydraulics, on a 1953 Chevrolet Corvette.  And, as he demonstrates with a series of YouTube videos from his desktop computer screen, these days low-riding is also immensely popular in Japan.

As generations have evolved, so, too, have tastes in low-rider cars.  The common denominator, it seems, is that the preferred cars tend to be the hip models of one’s youth.  In the 1970s, Chevrolet Impalas from the 1960s were in.  Today, Tapia and Miguel Maldonado say, the most popular cars for low-riding are Chevrolet Camaros and Pontiac Firebirds, which originally shared the same basic body.

When it comes to cars, Tapia eschews the term, “low-rider.”  He prefers to call them simply, “customized.”  And for a truly customized car, the price can easily reach $100,000 or more.

Start with the wheel rims, the signatures of just about every custom car.  They can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $7,000 — each.  The standard interior is crushed velvet — another spendy item.  Then come the hydraulics, maybe a new engine and finally the paint — up to five layers, as various designs and murals are worked in, followed by a protective finish of clear coat.

The process is so expensive and time-consuming that Tapia and Miguel Maldonado typically customize only around five cars a year, preferring their basic business of repairing standard cars for insurance companies.  For his part, Raul Maldonado owns an ice-blue 1953 Chevrolet with a white hardtop that he’s gradually been bringing back to life for 15 years.

Besides their affinity for custom cars, Tapia, Curincita and the Maldonados have something else in common.  They’re all successful, middle-aged business owners.  If it’s hard to imagine them out low-riding, then picture them fishing or woodworking.  As Curincita says, simply, “It’s a hobby, like any other.”

It is, nonetheless, one they take seriously.  Tapia gets impatient when he meets younger people who have suddenly come into money and bring in an old wreck that they want to transform while knowing nothing of the culture and traditions of low-riding.

“To me, low-riding is from the heart,” Tapia says.  “You were brought up in that, and you didn’t jump on the bandwagon 10 years ago.”

As for what defines an authentic low-rider car, Raul Maldonado says it’s in the chrome, the wheel rims, the hydraulics and the hundreds of small details in the paint and the fixtures.

“It’s the thrill you get out of a paint job, when it’s all custom and looks psychedelic, and you go cruising and have a good time and everyone admires your car,” he says.

And whether on Whittier Boulevard in East Los Angeles — considered by many the birthplace of low-riding — or Broadway in Redwood City, custom cars remain a passion for people who love painstaking craftsmanship combined with a touch of exhibitionism.  Settle back into the plush interior, rev the muscular Corvette engine, hit the hydraulics and brace for that resounding thump.

This story was originally published in the July print edition of Climate Magazine. 

Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA to buy 261 acres in La Honda for animal sanctuary

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The Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA (PHS/SPCA) announced Monday it is planning to establish a new animal sanctuary on a 261-acre plot of land in La Honda.

PHS/SPCA is about to finalize the purchase of the land, which will be used to provide a quality life for animals who are unlikely to be adopted, according to PHS/SPCA President Ken White.

The sanctuary will aim to be a refuge for behaviorally challenged and medically fragile cats and dogs, along with rabbits and farm animals needing homes.

“As an open admission shelter, many animals come to us with serious health and behavior problems,” said White. “We’ve built very robust veterinary and behavior teams and, through our Hope Program, we treat and then find homes for many of those special needs dogs, cats and other animals. The animals placed at the PHS/SCPA sanctuary will be those with challenges too extreme for us to currently address. This will include end-of-life fatally ill animals requiring hospice care, and the survivors of abuse and neglect which has left them untrusting of humans, as well as fractious/unsocialized cats.”

There will be a neighborhood of sorts at this planned sanctuary for hundreds of animals.

According to the PHS/SPCA statement:

”Animals will be matched into behaviorally-and medically-compatible animal families, and each of those families will take up residence in their own homes, each home surrounded by a specially designed fence to allow for safe and secure playtime whenever wanted. On-site staff and volunteers will provide overall supervision, supportive and medical care to all the animals living at the PHS/SPCA sanctuary.”

White said the project is in its planning and permitting stages, with construction hoped to begin in about a year to 18 months. So as not to disturb the animals, the sanctuary won’t be open to the public, but live webcams will broadcast activities, according to PHS/SPCA.

Both the land purchase and sanctuary are being funded through charitable donations by donors. For more information or to donate to help fund the PHS/SPCA animal sanctuary, visit here or contact Lisa Van Buskirk at

Photo of the land on which the animal sanctuary will be built courtesy of PHS/SPCA

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